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Re: GPL and statically linking with non-GPL standard C library

From: Barry Margolin
Subject: Re: GPL and statically linking with non-GPL standard C library
Date: Wed, 26 May 2004 20:18:54 -0400
User-agent: MT-NewsWatcher/3.4 (PPC Mac OS X)

In article <x5zn7ux2ig.fsf@lola.goethe.zz>, David Kastrup <> 
> So it would be your contention that every distribution of binaries
> was illegal when the recipient did not happen to have the compiler and
> libraries around used for compiling them.

What the recipient happened to have is not relevant.  The GPL makes 
reference to components that are normally distributed with the target 
OS.  So if the recipient deleted those components from his system, it's 

> > I was talking about the period before the GNU utilities were ported
> > to those systems.  Source distributions were the most common way to
> > distribute free software in the 80's.
> Oh, come off it.  I happened to be living in that time.  It was the
> time before autoconf.  Compiling any piece of software, in particular
> GNU software, was a major feat.  Which is why compiled versions were
> often passed around, once somebody managed to do all the work.

I was also around then.  While there may have been places where you 
could download precompiled binaries (like what is 
used for now), it was hardly the most common way that GPLed software was 

But that's not really relevant.  Even though the software may have been 
distributed in binary form, it was still targeted mostly at Unix systems 
that had all the relevant libraries bundled.  The only libraries that 
they typically depended on were libc and libm, and most versions of Unix 
came with them in /usr/lib.

> But enough of the weaseling around.
> Is it your contention that every distribution of GPL software with
> binaries included was illegal on proprietary systems not usually
> coming with the compiler and static system libraries?

Only if it doesn't come with system libraries.  I don't think the 
compiler is required.

> Yes or no?
> If yes, then distributing Emacs binaries compiled with mingcc is
> illegal, as long as you don't distribute the compiler and everything
> it links with in source as well.

That sounds like a GPL violation to me.  I guess whoever did that is 
lucky that the FSF didn't choose to make a stink about it.  I guess the 
folks who downloaded it were happy enough getting the software, and 
didn't care that it didn't come with everything needed to rebuild it.

> If no, then why would the Borland compiler's system libraries of the
> OP not be permitted under the GPL?

I think it would not be permitted.  But whether anyone will actually 
care is a totally different issue.

Barry Margolin,
Arlington, MA
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